Feds’ new pol­icy will limit claims of asy­lum

Trump aims to seize con­trol from mi­grants

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

The ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced a pol­icy last week giv­ing Pres­i­dent Trump power to block asy­lum claims from mi­grants in the car­a­van and oth­ers who plan to jump the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.

Mr. Trump is is­sued a procla­ma­tion flex­ing his na­tional se­cu­rity pow­ers and trig­ger­ing the pol­icy, which will al­low the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity to refuse to ac­cept asy­lum claims un­less peo­ple come through of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ings.

The goal, of­fi­cials said, is to try to turn the il­le­gal traf­fic into le­gal traf­fic, tak­ing power over who is ad­mit­ted to the U.S. away from the mi­grants and putting it back into the hands of the gov­ern­ment.

“Those who en­ter the coun­try be­tween ports of en­try — i.e., il­le­gally — are know­ingly and vol­un­tar­ily break­ing the law,” a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial told re­porters. “While all im­mi­gra­tion laws do af­ford peo­ple var­i­ous forms of pro­tec­tion, the re­al­ity is that it’s a vi­o­la­tion of fed­eral law to en­ter our coun­try in the man­ner that th­ese il­le­gal aliens are en­ter­ing the coun­try.”

Im­mi­grant rights ac­tivists vowed to tie up the plans in court, call­ing them il­le­gal and un-Amer­i­can. They said U.S. law guar­an­tees any­one the right to ask for asy­lum no mat­ter how they get into the coun­try.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s move un­der­scores how frus­trated Mr. Trump has be­come over the lack of ac­tion in Congress to stem the surge of il­le­gal im­mi­grants pos­ing as asy­lum-seek­ers. Meant to be a pro­tec­tion for peo­ple flee­ing gov­ern­ment per­se­cu­tion, the num­bers of asy­lum-seek­ers have bal­looned in re­cent years as mi­grants re­al­ized it can be used as a short­cut to gain an il­le­gal foothold in the U.S.

More than 60 per­cent of il­le­gal im­mi­grants caught from Gu­atemala, Hon­duras and El Sal­vador de­mand asy­lum, the gov­ern­ment said.

While other il­le­gal im­mi­grants nabbed at the bor­der are quickly pro­cessed and de­ported, those who ask for asy­lum are granted what is called a “cred­i­ble fear” hear­ing. If they ex­press a worry about be­ing sent home, they are al­lowed to stay and ap­ply for asy­lum.

Au­thor­i­ties say it’s a low bar and that il­le­gal im­mi­grants are coached on the “magic words” they can say to qual­ify.

Just 17 per­cent of peo­ple who cleared the ini­tial step last year were granted asy­lum, but few were de­ported. Most were re­leased into the coun­try, where they dis­ap­peared into the shad­ows with other il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

“It’s a mas­sive, frankly al­most his­tor­i­cally un­par­al­leled, abuse of our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem that is com­pletely and to­tally over­whelm­ing the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem, the asy­lum sys­tem, bor­der se­cu­rity,” the se­nior of­fi­cial said. “By any def­i­ni­tion, it is a full-fledged and very large cri­sis.”

Un­der the new pol­icy, im­mi­grants who show up at of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ings will be al­lowed to claim asy­lum, even if they don’t have per­mis­sion to en­ter. Those who climb the bor­der fence, cross the Rio Grande or walk through un­de­fended ter­ri­tory to sneak into the coun­try will not be al­lowed to make a claim.

The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union called the pol­icy change il­le­gal.

“U.S. law specif­i­cally al­lows in­di­vid­u­als to ap­ply for asy­lum whether or not they are at a port of en­try. It is il­le­gal to cir­cum­vent that by agency or pres­i­den­tial de­cree,” said ACLU lawyer Omar Jad­wat.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said that’s not quite right.

They said the U.S. can’t pre­vent peo­ple from ap­ply­ing for a stay of de­por­ta­tion, but it doesn’t have to al­low asy­lum claims to be made at any place no mat­ter how some­one en­ters.

The new pol­icy also points to parts of the asy­lum law giv­ing the at­tor­ney gen­eral pow­ers to “set con­di­tions or lim­i­ta­tions” on how asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tions can be con­sid­ered.

It’s not clear, though, that the pol­icy would keep any­one from at­tempt­ing it.

Still, of­fi­cials said in the 78-page pol­icy doc­u­ment that they hope one ef­fect will be to en­cour­age Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants to seek asy­lum in Mex­ico rather than rush for the U.S., the gov­ern­ment ar­gued in doc­u­ments.

Plus, it would be a prod to Mex­ico and other Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries to join the U.S. in try­ing to pre­vent large car­a­vans, the gov­ern­ment said.

Th­ese sorts of poli­cies usu­ally must go through a full no­tice-and-com­ment pe­riod, but the ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­gued that would be a mis­step in this case. For one thing, it could cre­ate a rush for mi­grants hop­ing to get in un­der the wire, of­fi­cials said.

Fears of the lat­est mi­grant car­a­vans per­vade the 78-page pol­icy.

Thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­cans are travers­ing Mex­ico with an eye to reach the U.S. and to de­mand asy­lum. They have re­jected of­fers of asy­lum in Mex­ico and in­stead have asked the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide them with buses or trucks to get to the U.S. bor­der faster.

Most say they are look­ing to re­unite with il­le­gal im­mi­grant fam­ily in the U.S. or are flee­ing crime and poverty back home, rather than the sort of gov­ern­ment-spon­sored re­li­gious, ra­cial or po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion that his­tor­i­cally has made up asy­lum cases.

The Coali­tion for Hu­mane Im­mi­grant Rights, a Los An­ge­les-based or­ga­ni­za­tion, said it would de­ploy a team of lawyers to Mex­ico City, where one car­a­van is camped right now, to ad­vise mem­bers of their op­tions.

“Our im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­neys are part of a hu­mane, com­pas­sion­ate and con­crete re­sponse for mi­grants,” said Luis Perez, le­gal ser­vices di­rec­tor for the group.

Mr. Trump has de­ployed more than 5,000 ac­tive-duty U.S. troops to the Amer­i­can side of the bor­der, where they are hard­en­ing the ports of en­try with ra­zor-wire fenc­ing and work­ing to sup­port Bor­der Pa­trol agents in the field.

Mex­i­can au­thor­i­ties this week said they had de­tected and de­ported six Hon­durans from within the car­a­van who had crim­i­nal records for homi­cide and rob­bery.

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